Sizing Small on Static Boards
Thus far in the series, our discussion has focussed on how often to c-bet our range. Today we take our first step toward understanding the other main aspect of c-bet strategy – bet-sizing. Sizing is very much dependant on board texture. Let’s start by introducing the type of board we’ll be looking at today.
What are Static Flops
Static flops are ones where the strong hands are already established and are unlikely to get outdrawn. Paired flops and dry flops with one or more high card are prime examples of static flops. On J♦J♥4♠, for example, trip-jacks is already possible and practically invincible. Whoever has Q♣J♣ here is either miles ahead of their opponents, or tragically about to encounter a huge cooler.
Another example of a static flop is A♥7♠5♣. It is very easy to hold top pair here, and again, when this hand is good, it is miles ahead of the nearest competitor hands. A gutshot straight draw is drawing to just four outs and a second pair hand like 7x, just five. If you have top pair, then we can say your hand is very stable; the opposite of vulnerable.
You might have heard poker players talk about way ahead or way behind situations. When you have a strong hand on a static board, you are always in one of these spots.
On static boards, it is sensible to use small sizing.
Your value hands are practically invincible and so they do not need to rush the pot growth. You can always size up on a later street after betting the flop small. Meanwhile, static boards polarise Villain’s range to either top pair on Axx (trips on QQx) or a very weak hand. Since you want to bet a lot of your range on a static board, you do not want to risk too much money. With poor hands like medium pairs or king-high, you are mainly only betting to deny equity to Villain’s weak hands. The cheaper the price you can lay yourself on folding out bad hands, the better. We want to achieve this while damage-limiting when we run into top pair, or trips, or whatever the established and invincible made hand happens to be. When you have 66 on AK5, you are betting simply to get live cards to fold. Such a bet does not want to risk much money.
Another important consideration when picking your bet-size, in game theory, is the nut concentration of your range compared to that of your opponent’s. In other words, whose range enjoys the highest frequency of very strong hands? On most board textures (apart from the very wet ones we shall discuss in a future instalment) overpairs are very influential hands. The pre-flop raiser has all the combinations of TT-AA, but the pre-flop caller does not. On many boards, these big pairs provide a massive nut advantage. Having thirty combinations of JJ-AA (each pair is six) on a flop of 7♦4♣2♠, for example, is very powerful.
When we have a significant overpair advantage and overpairs are very strong hands, we want to use larger sizing.
This makes sense because we effectively have an uncapped range against a capped range. The bigger our value hands make the pot, the better.
On static boards, however, our overpairs are no longer such powerful holdings. How do you feel about your Q♥Q♠ on K♠7♦2♥? Is A♣A♦ so powerful on K♥K♠2♣, of course not! On these flops, the overpairs have been demoted from tier-1 hands to tier-2 so we are less inclined to build massive pots with them. On KK2, the nuts is a king; it’s that simple. When the pre-flop caller defends his big blind, he has plenty of Kx hands and so we no longer hold the monopoly on the nuts.
When your range has less of a nut advantage because overpairs have been demoted, you want to bet smaller to control the size of the pot.
While your Kx might not mind betting big on a flop like K♥K♠8♠, you have to remember that most of your range would rather bet small. 8x, for example, is just making a thin value, protection type of bet. Meanwhile, AJo is just trying to get T9 to fold before it hits a pair. 7♦6♦ is trying to make a cheap bluff and lose the minimum when it runs into a king. Even the normally mighty AA has become a hand that would rather not play a massive pot.
The reason we also bet small with our Kx, then, is because Kx is in no rush to get value and is fairly indifferent about which sizing it uses on the flop. We keep the same size with all of our range here in order to disguise when we have the nuts and when we have a more mediocre hand. Of course, against unthinking and sticky opponents, there is nothing wrong with using a big bet with a king and a smaller bet with the rest of our range, but clearly this strategy is going to be very exploitable against good opposition.
- Static flops are paired flops and dry ones with high cards. The best hands are already established and are miles ahead.
- Static flops reduce the strength of overpairs, lowering the nut-advantage of the pre-flop raiser’s range.
- With less nut advantage you want to play smaller pots and so sizing smaller is the norm on dry flops.
- We can unbalance our range vs. weak players and size up exploitatively with certain parts of our range.